i don't know what women are. do any of you?

(144 Posts)
chibi Sat 15-Jun-13 15:26:54

i am asking honestly. womanness is not a consequence of chromosomes or external morphology. it is about feeling you are a woman.

i don't feel like a woman. i don't even know what that would feel like.

everyone i have spoken with has assumed i am a woman, and i have done things some people associate with women like menstruating, being pregnant etc.

i used to think that because of my external morphology and the whole giving birth thing, and people's assumptions and my upbringing that i was a woman but now i am not sure.

if you are whichever gender you identify with and feel you are, and i don't feel like a woman, (i don't know even how they feel) but am i one because i also don't feel like anything else?

ThirdTimesABrokenFanjo Tue 18-Jun-13 15:14:10

some skirts and some dresses are very comfortable, but many are built for looks and not comfort and combined with the rules for women. knees together, don't show your knickers, don't bend over, can't reach up. they're very restrictive

FreyaSnow Tue 18-Jun-13 10:05:21

Possibly getting into the trivial here, but I don't view wearing a skirt as a restriction. I almost always wear a skirt or a dress because I find them more physically comfortable. I can understand that people who were made to wear them for some kind of dress code and didn't like wearing them would find that restrictive. I don't wear them primarily for the sake of appearance but for physical comfort.

Thumbwitch Tue 18-Jun-13 06:48:23

And yes, I agree with your first paragraph there. Other men do not like to see men "feminise" themselves - and indeed some don't like to see women in trousers - because it is seen as weak and "girly". Yes, women are still definitely seen as the underclass by too significant a proportion of society and the trappings of womanhood are seen as signs of that second-class status.

Thumbwitch Tue 18-Jun-13 06:46:17

No, I didn't mean that wearing a dress was a freedom for women - I meant that females have the choice between wearing a dress (feminine) or trousers (masculine) in most places now without prejudice; whereas men don't have that choice.

WhentheRed Tue 18-Jun-13 01:25:26

I agree that society is not welcoming to feminine men. They are viewed as weak and undesirable. It actually says a lot about how society views women, as the underclass. It is unfathomable that a man would wish to adorn himself in the trappings of weakness and helplessness.

I accept there is a difference of view and perspectives of whether wearing a dress is a freedom for women. I have always viewed wearing a dress or skirt as a restriction and limitation. I have been involved in a movement to be freed from the restriction of having to wear a skirt. maybe it's a reflection of my age, but I don't consider it to be a freedom.

I have no difficulty with men wearing skirts, dresses, make-up, etc. (although I do have a problem with drag). I just don't see it as an advantage women have over men.

Thumbwitch Tue 18-Jun-13 01:03:40

There is a limitation to the freedoms that men and boys have in this area though, isn't there? I mean, THESE days, no one blinks an eye at a girl in trousers or historically "masculine" clothing, but men who would like to wear skirts and dresses and other traditionally feminine clothing cop all sorts of hassle.
So when it comes to choosing whether or not to wear traditionally masculine or feminine clothing/garb, women have the advantage there.
One of the few areas we do, though.

WhentheRed Tue 18-Jun-13 00:24:42

Interesting discussion. Thank you for starting it chibi. Do I "feel" like a woman? I don't know what that means.

I think that there may be many different definitions of being a woman. The one definition of womanhood I truly reject is "not a man". We are not just "others". I also reject femininity as a marker of or requirement for womanhood.

I was born with the physical characteristics of being female. Since then I have been treated as a girl and a woman, which means that society has placed a number of expectations and limitations on me, and has reinforced those expectations and limitations. There has rarely been a day gone by in life where I am not conscious of my place in society as a woman.

I was lucky to be raised by a feminist who taught me to reject those expectations and limitations. I do reject them, and I resent that they are used to define me as a person. I have been somewhat successful in rejecting those expectations and limitations but I am conscious that where I have openly rejected the expectations, I have been all of rejected, ignored, pilloried or identified as being outside the norm. At the most benign, my "masculine" characteristics are presented as a bit of a joke.

I have also felt a failure as a woman because I am not inherently feminine and do not have the physical characteristics of the idealised feminine woman. As a result, I do conform to some expectations of being feminine, even though I reject femininity.

I would love to have experienced the expectations, freedoms and opportunities experienced by boys and men. However, I have never wanted to be a man. There have been occasions in my life, both as a child and as an adult, where I have been identified by others as a boy/man. That upset me very much, more because it reinforced my failure to be a woman as expected by society and signalled a lack of acceptance of/attraction to me, than me not feeling like a man. I am heterosexual, so being classified as a boy/man was hard for me even as a nine year old.

I don't use the word "gender". I see gender as that body of expectations and limitations on me because I am female, and I reject that. I believe that defining women as belonging to the socially constructed gender is dangerous, exclusionary and retrogressive.

TheDoctrineOfAllan Mon 17-Jun-13 23:56:40

Tunip, thanks for your post of 10:47 Sunday.

Woman is entwined with what I am, I think. It's comfortable that way.

FreyaSnow Mon 17-Jun-13 23:28:13

Changing my mind for the twentieth time... What it comes down to for me is that I've lived in one place for a long time, during which time I've been pregnant and breastfed. The vast majority of people I know have seen me breastfeeding or pregnant, so I am visibly reproductively female. There is nothing I can do other than move and not speaking to anybody I know ever again that is going to change that.

No amount of no longer coercively assigning gender at birth or bringing in different ways of organising gender is going to change the fact that pretty much everyone I know knows I am reproductively female. As I am already going to be perceived in that way with all the baggage that goes with it, I don't see any purpose in making any kind of statement to other people about the extent to which I am a woman (whatever people take that to mean) because that would just give me an additional category, not remove the one everyone already considers me to be in.

Whether there is any benefit to making that statement to myself, I don't know. I don't think I'm capable of dividing up everything about me into male and female thoughts and experiences. I'm not sure what a man or or a non-binary person gets to think or experience that I don't.

badguider Mon 17-Jun-13 15:47:07

Interesting.

I have no idea what it 'feels like to be a woman'. Honestly, none at all.

I would never describe myself as trans-"phobic", I sympathise with transexual women and wish them all the best with finding themsleves/happiness/whatever they seek - but I honestly do not for a second understand what those who say they feel about the 'wrong' body are describing.

I am a female who was raised in a very gender-neutral way (In the 70s) and have some male-dominated hobbies. I studied a VERY male-dominated subject at university but now do a job that is more equally done by both male and female. I have friends who are men and friends who are women but mostly socialise in mixed-sex groups and most people in my social group socialise in mixed-sex groups.

I do minimal 'feminine grooming' as in I don't wear high heels, make up or 'style' my hair, but also I do not look male or even 'butch' - with my figure and features I couldn't but I also choose to have shoulder length hair and wear a mix of clothes, many of which are 'women's' in a subtle way (shape, pattern, colour) even when not overtly feminine.

Currently I am pregnant.. is that a 'woman' thing? Or is it just a 'female' thing? For now, even though I'm the pregnant one there's not a lot different in how my husband and I are approaching impending parent-hood....

So, OP - you are not alone in not knowing what it means to 'feel womanly'... but personally I have never felt the expectation to feel womanly so don't feel anything missing.

TunipTheVegedude Mon 17-Jun-13 08:57:49

'I think I would struggle as a straight man as I think what "makes a man a man" is a much more rigid lifestyle then I could adhere to.'

Not nonsense at all, I think that's very true and relevant.
Men are the more privileged group in relation to women but induction into idealised manhood is not particularly pleasant.

I think this is one reason why a lot of women have an instinctive sympathy for transwomen - sort of 'don't blame you for not wanting to be a man, I wouldn't either'.

HullMum Mon 17-Jun-13 06:37:26

I'm a woman. I have a vagina and all relevant bits. I know that 500 years ago the teen age version of me would probably be burned as a heretic for "dressing like a man" and probably living as one as well (according to that societies standards ). I only wore men's jeans, short hair hoodies. I was still a woman just because you know, I was. I wouldn't say I "feel like a woman" although when dealing with infertility I did for the first time feel like less of one...for some reason. but is that natural or a reaction to the way society sees every female human as a potential mother. As an adult I love cath kidston and bunting,I don't see those as womanly, I think society has decided they are feminine though. I haven't changed who I am since being a teenager I just like different things now that society seems to believe are gender conforming although that's a lot to do with society easing up on what is acceptable for women and how what we see as normal now might have once been seen as masculine.

I think I would struggle as a straight man as I think what "makes a man a man" is a much more rigid lifestyle then I could adhere to. men aren't allowed to enjoy "female" things for fear of catching the dreaded vaginaitus or the gay.

Am I talking nonsense? have I answered the question? it's the middle of the night here and I'm so tired

YoniMatopoeia Sun 16-Jun-13 23:00:39

I agree with other posters saying that my feeling of being a woman only comes from how others see me and treat me.

Fascinating thread.

GoshAnneGorilla Algeria Sun 16-Jun-13 20:55:33

I think that people feel their gender as something more innate then just how they might externally express it.

I have encountered in my day job some very intriguing cases of gender ambiguity and the various conditions that cause it.

There is still very much the desire to "treat" such conditions by deciding which gender the person is closest too, yet quite a few in the intersex community feels it's wrong for their bodies to have been interfered with and they should have been allowed to decide for themselves.

TunipTheVegedude Sun 16-Jun-13 19:31:42

Does anyone say transitioning is an individual choice free from outside pressures?

MiniTheMinx Sun 16-Jun-13 19:21:28

GoshAnneGorilla I agree society is not accepting. This raises the question though of whether transitioning is an individual choice free of all outside pressures. By wishing to belong to just one of the two binary choices of being a man or a woman, does this entrench the view that certain behaviours and characteristics are natural to men or women. Surely it would be better to have women building bridges and men wearing dresses & baking cupcakes without so much as a raised brow.

I think there is a link between the gains made by women, capitalism and the very narrow definitions of womenhood that are sold back to us. There is a contradiction, as women make certain gains in terms of spending power we find that rather than giving us more choice about how we perform femininity or not, we are being sold a very narrow definition of what it is to look like a women. It seems that as we change our behaviours, expectations & roles, this challenges gender in some respects, whilst other forces act to define us. Its a similar situation with the pressure to both work outside the home and to be the very best doting mother. We are literally pulled in directions that men aren't. Men are surplus to the needs of capital.

I think more confusion will reign forth until gender no longer matters. In the meantime there will be casualties.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Sun 16-Jun-13 17:47:38

Ah, sorry, I was partly thinking back to what gothanne is saying about it being offensive, and trying to work out why.

I agree that reinforcing the idea of gender as a concrete category is not going to help anyone.

FloraFox Sun 16-Jun-13 17:44:45

MRD I don't think it should be offensive to say that gender is a construct and I agree that no-one has a physical gender. I also didn't say that what we feel or think is less important than anything else. How we feel is important and how those feelings relate to our bodies and societies expectations of us based both on our bodies and our conformity (or lack of) with socially constructed views of how a person with our body should behave.

I am a human being with the physical characteristics of the sex which carries and delivers children. This was apparent when I was born so I was raised as a girl in a society which told me there were expectations and limitations on me because I was a member of that class but in a family which told me I should ignore those expectations and limitations and be myself. I am now a woman. I conform with society's expectations of women in some respects but not in others and I continue to be subject to a number of expectations and limitations because I am a woman.

I have wished on a number of occasions that I was a man so that I did not have to deal with various things I don't like about being a woman in our society however I have never felt that I am a man. I should think that having a feeling that you are of the opposite sex when your biology is otherwise would be a very unpleasant feeling. Since I reject society's gender expectations, I have no problem with someone who chooses to present themselves in any manner they see fit. I do have a problem with the concept that because a person prefers those things or has those characteristics that our current society has determined are feminine, that person must be a woman. This reinforces those constructed expectations in a way that can impact negatively on all women.

kickassangel Sun 16-Jun-13 17:32:49

Haven't read whole head, but I think I get what you mean.

I think of myself as a person, or me. I very definitely look like a woman and I am easily identified as one. I had a very stereotypical upbringing which means I'm crap at sport and good at baking, but that still doesn't mean I feel womanly because of that.

I was thinking this morning that when I think about people, I don't first identify them by their gender, but by their roles or bahviour. So work colleagues I primarily identify by their job, whether I respect them, get on with them, and somewhere down the line I am aware they are male or female, but that isn't anywhere near the top of my list.

I have the same attitude to color, it just isn't the first thing I notice about a person, and may not be how I would describe them. I would say they do x y z, then give a physical description.

I think that being a teacher, where you look at the work and progress of a student, influences this. When I meet a new class, I often know how someone works before I have learnt their name, so I focus on their behaviour/work more than the outward aspects.

I am happy just to be me. I know I'm female, it doesn't bother me too much, but if I had to describe "me", I would list things I do or believe before giving a physical description.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Sun 16-Jun-13 17:23:11

flora - sure, gender is a construct. But I don't see why it should be offensive to say so.

It cannot possibly be entirely physical. But no-one has a physical gender. So what's the issue?

I think it's very problematic to start saying that what we feel or think is somehow less important than anything else.

tungthai Sun 16-Jun-13 15:53:37

I feel like a woman. I have periods, I have carried two babies and I look like a woman.

Generally I prefer to be with women than men I find women easier to talk to than men. I feel at ease in the company of older men but have never felt comfortable with men or boys my own age unless I am interested in them romantically.

I hate all that men are from Mars, women are from Venus rubbish. I read the book and identified more with the male descriptor.

GoshAnneGorilla Algeria Sun 16-Jun-13 15:43:52

Passing as a woman has a huge safety aspect to it though and just generally having an easier and safer time in society.

Society is not very kind to those who aren't deemed sufficiently gender conforming, whether they are trans or seen as non gender conforming in other ways.

yamsareyammy Sun 16-Jun-13 15:15:23

I definitely feel like a woman.
I have an elderly relative that feels so womanly that she refuses to wear trousers. Ever.

MiniTheMinx Sun 16-Jun-13 14:18:12

Sorry if the wording in my post offends some, not meant to.

I think one of the great things that feminism is doing is questioning and challenging dominant social ideas about what it is to be a woman. To what extent are characteristics more commonly attributed to men often viewed as bad? if women have characteristics more commonly attributed to women like empathy, kindness, subservience are they being limited to performing certain roles within society and why are these characteristics always seen as good? but strangely often as weak?

I do think that womanhood is largely a socially constructed category that changes over place and time, so if I have to ask rather than guess at knowing how other women experience being a woman, its difficult to know whether Trans women are identifying with what they perceive to be a women or whether it really is something more to do with their bodies not matching with their perception of what sex they think they are. ( but it's not possible to change sex, only the sex you appear to be) If they have not grown up and been socialised into the role, if they have never had that dialectical mirroring back to them of who/what they are then they must be starting from scratch possibly with a few stereotypical assumptions thrown in. ie, if I like pink, if I like babies, I cry, I feel deep connections with people, value thinking over action etc,... maybe I am a women.

Trans women talk about passing as women. So how others see them forms a huge part of how they experience themselves. It might be impossible to experience oneself as a women if others are not reflecting and validating that.

FloraFox Sun 16-Jun-13 13:55:52

Gender is a construct though, it is not concrete. I find the attempts to police this discussion disturbing especially when chibi has been trying to discuss how the absence of any feeling of the construct is making her feel like a freak.

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